Greetings from Tijuana

Violence up in Baja - especially for journalists

September 24, 2007 — "Gunmen fire automatic weapons from several vehicles, attacking a post manned by federales in the Francisco Villa neighborhood. The metal fence of a nearby school is destroyed by the storm of bullets."
  • September 24, 2007 — "Gunmen fire automatic weapons from several vehicles, attacking a post manned by federales in the Francisco Villa neighborhood. The metal fence of a nearby school is destroyed by the storm of bullets."
  • Image by Oscar A. Martinez for Frontera

January 28, 2008 — I am taking pictures in the Zona Norte area when two police officers push me against the wall of the Miami Club and take my camera.

January 28, 2008 — I am taking pictures in the Zona Norte area when two police officers push me against the wall of the Miami Club and take my camera.

The End of the World

A mile east of the Tijuana International Airport is an area police call El Fin del Mundo, the End of the World, where drug-cartel assassins dump their victims. Both Mexican and American citizens have been found there. On December 18, 2004, according to Sergeant Tom Bulow of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, San Marcos resident Noé Chávez García was lured to Tijuana by two acquaintances who shot him several times and left him in this corpse-disposal zone. He survived his wounds to tell his story to the FBI and Mexican officials. His is a rare case — he lived.

"A total of more than 4,800 Mexicans were slain in 2006 and 2007," reports the Washington Post on March 16, 2008, "making the murder rate in each of those years twice that of 2005. Law enforcement officials and journalists, politicians and peasants have been gunned down in the wave of violence."

"What affects one side affects the other," Mayor Jerry Sanders tells USA Today on February 5, 2007. "We're literally one region with a fence down the middle."

"The murder rate in Tijuana is certainly not more than about 500 per year," states, which is not an official government website. Maintained by "supporters of the United States Border Patrol," apparently Minutemen-friendly watchdogs, the site has an in-your-face manner that a government site cannot. It asks, "Of course, when is a body count an actual body count?" and adds, "This is the number of people discovered on the street, in cars, in houses, or mysteriously plopped at Tijuana's city dump within a dozen miles or so of the city center. The 500 does not include the vast numbers of 'others' who find their way into shallow graves scattered across the 10,000 square miles of desert sands from Tijuana to the Sea of Cortez."

A Violent Timeline

1985 — Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo, a former police officer from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, is the first Mexican drug czar to link up with Colombia's cocaine cartels. He is known as "El Padrino." "He and other druglords shared the Tijuana corridor," writes Time magazine. After the February 9 murder of Enrique Camarena, an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Reagan administration pressures Mexican authorities to take action.

April 8, 1989 — Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo is apprehended in Sinaloa. The New York Times reports, "Hours after he was arrested… army troops…rounded up the entire city police force — about 300 men — for questioning about possible links to Mr. Félix Gallardo, who American officials believe smuggled as much as two tons of cocaine into the United States each month." Many police officers defect from the force.

1990–1993 — Gallardo's organization breaks into two factions: the Tijuana cartel, led by his seven nephews and four nieces, the Arellano Félix family; and the Sinaloa cartel, run by former lieutenants Héctor Luís Palma Salazar and Joaquín Guzmán Loera. Both organized-crime syndicates engage in kidnap for ransom, assassinations, and drug transportation. "Into Tijuana roared the seven Arellano brothers," states a Time article, describing the brothers as "handsome Benjamín, their CEO; chubby Ramón, the enforcer; finance-whiz Eduardo, 44, the money launderer; and the eldest, Francisco, 51, the gregarious, cross-dressing pitchman who, say officials, cemented the clan's top-drawer political and police alliances, usually out of his Mazatlán discotheque, Frankie O's."

December 3, 1993 — Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix (aka "El Comandante Mon") is arrested by the Mexican Federal Judicial Police in Tijuana. The Mexico City newspaper Reforma notes he was once arrested in San Diego in 1980 for selling 250 grams of cocaine to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent. He is incarcerated on drug charges, for illegal arms possession, and for complicity in the murder of Catholic Church cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo as the cardinal stepped out of his car at the Guadalajara airport.

March 23, 1994 — At a campaign rally in Tijuana, presidential candidate Luís Donaldo Colosio is killed by bullets to the head and abdomen. An article, "Mexico's Fiesta of Assassins," posted at, states that "the first official explanation has it that the gunman, Mario Aburto Martínez, is a deranged loner craving notoriety," although "a preponderance [of] evidence does indeed point to a conspiracy: Colosio's autopsy would show that he had been shot twice and that bullets had entered opposite sides of his body. Videotapes of the shooting show that Colosio did not turn after the first shot, which suggests a second gunman."

Tijuana police arrest a second man on March 23, caught running from the rally with blood on his clothes. According to the Federal News Service, Tijuana's municipal police chief, José Federico Benítez López, has posted his men at the rally in defiance of "PRI operatives, who counseled him to let them handle security." The man Tijuana police arrest, Jorge Antonio Sánchez, tests positive for powder burns. However, federal authorities release him. "According to the weekly news magazine Proceso," the Federal News Service article continues, "Sánchez turned out to be an agent of the Center of Investigations and National Security (CISEN), Mexico's counterpart to the CIA."

April 28, 1994 — Police chief José Federico Benítez López is assassinated "in a meticulously planned ambush on a Tijuana street," according to the Federal News Service. Not satisfied with the official explanations of the Colosio assassination, and against political party objections, Benítez has been investigating Colosio's PRI security team, looking for other conspirators. "He discovered that the team leader, José Rodolfo Rivapalacio, was a former state police commander who had been accused of torture by the federal government's human rights commission… whose own daughter described him as 'a very violent man' who beat his wife and children, and who San Diego police suspect of hiring a hit man in a botched attempt to murder his estranged wife in the United States." Benítez's files on Rivapalacio disappear from police headquarters days before Benítez is gunned down. Anna Cearley of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that shortly before his death, Benítez apparently turns down a $100,000 bribe from drug traffickers.

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Tijuana is a very unique place that attracts many American and foreign visitors from all walks of life for many different reasons . With the recent rash of violence and corruption taking place its understandable that people are hesitant to go there.. Human beings in general dont want to risk there lives and or fortunes by visiting a lawless society.. Obviously , America is part of the problem (with there insatiable craving for drugs ) in the battle of the continuing drug wars that take place upon our borders. Until something is done , I think readers should take heed to the authors warnings .. Obviously Mexico will suffer greatly from these tourism losses , and if there goverment sectors cannot unite and get a grip on there problems , it will become much worse . One thing they might explore is to take a proactive response to there problem , perhaps legalize some drugs (like Amsterdam , that does not have drug war and lawless problems.) and would bring massive amounts of tourist traffic and revenues that could go straight into there economy , as well as curb the violence and turf wars from these dangerous sectors currently in place .perhaps this might weed the bad guys out or at force them into a more honest living within a "legalized" sector withought having to blow people away to protect there turf wars , and jepordizing the safety of all Obviously , Mexico is a very desirable destination for travlers .. people like the laid back culture , The Mexican ambiance ...there government should step up to the plate and come up with ideas to ensure that they keep attracting tourists to there region and make it safe for there people , not scare them away. I for one love Mexico , yet am now a bit aprenhisive to travel there due to the random kidnappings , blatant corruption and so on .. Travlers are not stupid , word gets out weather it be good , bad or ugly ...Something needs to be done to curb this disturbing trend .. Dont follow the dumb ass Bush/Republican U.S. approach to drug intervention ,, implement a 1 year trial period ,, whereby you can enact controlled hash house areas , like that of Amsterdam , and see what happens ,,,What do you have to lose , at the rate your going now your Country's looking at a potential revolution taking place ,unless the violence can be curbed. Furthermore I believe legalizing could see a major reduction in these crimes we see proliferating , and the wellbeing of these border communities at large would see a major influx of tourists , jobs , and revenues . The bottom line is something radical needs to be done , Dont look to the U.S. for support and assistance (there a failure , and a drug addicted society ) take a look at Amsterdam's lead in drug laws and implementations and make a move in that direction .. When its safe again , I will be the first to fisit for a bueno hit and a cold Corona .

Eddlebrock San Diego

P.S. Vote Democratic

well go to tijuauna and you are going to get robbed ,killed or hurt badly i am sure..... i went with a friend just to see what tijuana was like he has lived in city heights 27 years and been many times; it was our lady of guadalupe day 2007 i wanted to experience the cathedral as i have experienced other parts of mexico on the feast day. well a night mare for me offers of drugs, sex even "we have girls you can take home"...... after bieng, at least trying to be, friendly turned down those offers offer especially disconcerting> was to come upstairs for great mexican food , 99 cent margaretas nakid dancers and any drugs i could possibly think of. joking i said oh no i would not go any place i would not take my daughters that statement was a big mistake,,, immeadeatly threatened and asked if i thought i was bullet proof,i quickly left the area downtown. needless to say i told my friend we got get outa this place now...that man was not kidding.. the moral is stay out of tijuana ,rosorita and dont even try to cross the border. i am no spring chicken and i saw many young men looking for a "good time" what a mistake for them! even if you are just looking for a cheap weekend at the beach at rosarita what is your life worth? STAY AWAY and avoid the enevitable...

In some cases, those guys on the street who offer to take you "upstairs" where there will be "girls, food, margaritas" are going to mug you in the stairway or an empty room. Advice to the tourist "looking for a good time" is to check various guides online that alert to dangers and what is safe, ask some Americans in the area who look like they've been there for advice, don't travel alone if you're green to TJ, keep an eye out on who is walking behind you and how close, and pretty much never trust anyone on the street and their grand offers -- and if they get threatening and irate, ignore them, walk away, give them a dollar to shut up, just don't start a conflict that will make the police interested in what is going on because they're not going to care about "your side" of the story.

Answer to #3 --

The "fake cops" won't be in the main tourist areas because the authentic cops and the federales will spot them. The guys dressed up as TJ cops are in other areas and usually on a quick mission, if you will -- a kidnapping or a gun-down, a get in and get out fast operation.

That's not to say trust all TJ cops. The "honest" public relations cops on Revolucion (women cops too, to make female tourists "feel safe") are just for show; next week they may be working for someone else.

3 If going to Tj, my advise is: Stay away from the "Zona Norte," there are plenty of other places to go in Tj without being targeted.

Also do your research well, and of course... don't go alone, don't dress like a tourist going on "bootie call". Plus exercise your common sense: if you look at a cop in tj, take a good look at their facial characteristcs, the way the walk, if possible what kind of accent they use (with their own spanish), etc. if you think about it can become easier to tell a real cop from a fake one, and an honest cop from a crooked one. Finally, forget whatever stereotypes or ethnic typecasting that you dad or grandpa' used back in their days... things have changed a lot! And nothing is what it seem anymore(if you get my drift).

Don't go. It is not safe. There is nothing worth going there for. Things are really not any cheaper after you compare the time and border wait. Spend your money in America.

I really don't understand the point of this article, is the SD reader writing sensationalist press now??

There is violence everywhere SD, LA, NY, not just in Mexico or Tijuana

I really don't get the purpose of this article... I even doubt about the research made for this article...

Tijuana-San Diego should work together to solve problems and articles like this just makes it more difficult

Response to post #5. Mexico needs to work on its corruption problem. The writer noted numerous visits and several contacts with Mexican police which were hustles.

I used to visit Mexico; Rosarito and Ensenada. I became tired of being pulled over by the police and hit up for money. If you can't trust the police, how can you have any faith in their law and order? So I stopped going and I don't miss it. As I said in my first post, there's nothing worth (the risk) of going there for.

Mexico doesn't report all the crime and Americans don't report things as well. So unlike in American were every single tidbit makes the press, internet or a blog.. in Mexico many negative reports are suppressed and never reported.

I used to take visitors from out of town down there for a day. Now I would never do that or even recommend it to anyone. It's so seedy, dirty and corrupt these days I wouldn't insult a friend by exposing them to it.

Linda22 --

How is the fact that violence and corruption exist in more than one place reason to not discuss its impact in one particular region?

Answer to #5

Linda, all the events reported are verifiable and you can do your own research via the sources given to see for yourself. It's difficult sometimes to accept that these things are happening a few miles from our homes, because it makes us feel less safe. I have known people (and know people) who will not watch the news on TV or read the paper because they don't want to hear about the murder that took place five miles away, or the rape that happened two blocks away, let alone what is happening in Dufar, Iraq, or Mexico City; they do not want to "believe" that such things occur so close to a safe and quiet home. In one way, this could be a good thing, to keep the dark stuff away, those matters that will make you scared and depressed; in another, it is not good -- shielding oneself from these truths is to shield oneself from reality. I would like to hope that a middle ground could be met where we can ignore the monster outside but become aware that it is indeed there and to steer clear of it.

Violence in TJ is not comparable to "SD, LA, NY" -- in SD, LA, and NY, we do not have a plethora of politicians, police chiefs, and journalists assassinated in broad daylight, or decapitated heads left out in public with warning messages attached. International news outlets such as the BBC, Reuters, and Al Jazeera report about Mexico's drug cartel violence because it is unlike any other in the Western world, there are human rights violations going on, and politically the atmosphere and leadership could change overnight.

I used to spend quite a lot of time in Mexico. In the late 90's, Tijuana seemed to be turning the corner. We could pop over for a long lunch, and the border wait coming back was often less than half an hour.

I returned there this year, on several different occassions, and I can say the place and the mood is really changed.

Boarded up storefronts, a sort of closed calculating look on the residents' faces, army check points, and soldiers with automatic rifles and flak vests patrolling the streets...

I was offered interesting work this summer with a maquiladora in Tijuana, and it was very tempting. But I reluctantly turned it down.

Never before in my life have I been concerned about kidnapping. It's something that happens to wealthy executives or people involved in the drug trade...not friendly computer geeks who speak passable Spanish.

But today there seems to be a level of desperation and ruthlessness in Tijuana that is difficult to ignore. I do stand out in a crowd, best as I try to stay low. Were I captured, they'd find out quickly I don't have significant amount of money. I expect they'd just dump my corpse and move along to the next victim. Bye, bye, Fred.

I am a coward after all, and the disappointment of the people I was to work with this summer was really sad.

I am deeply sorry for the average Mexican who has to endure this low-level warfare day in and day out. They do not deserve what is happening all around them. They know the root cause though, and who to blame for encouraging this to happen.

Our own pointless "War on Drugs" is what fuels this carnage next door.

The narcotrafficantes are here because America's desire to use recreational drugs remains a constant attraction for those who will supply them. So long as we continue to use paramilitary methods to fight this commerce, they'll use paramilitary methods to fight us and each other.

The war on drugs in Mexico is being waged in our name. This long list of murders is only a small portion of the blood we shed, directly and indirectly, because our national leadership is composed of hypocrits.

For 16 years now the man in the White House, Democrat and Republican alike, has been an admitted illegal drug user. Instead of admitting that recreational drugs are not the root of all evil and can be used in moderation without destroying your life, these two men continued the lies of their predecessors.

The result today is a multi-billion dollar drain on our treasury, and the slaughter of countless neighbors, whether guilty or innocent.

Don't blame Mexico. The fault is our own.

You owe me 15 minutes crossborder_kenn. For reading your drivel.

TJ still sucks.


Corruption is everywhere, I'm not defending Mexico, is just that I don't see the point of the article... is it to scare everyone? To keep people away from Mexico like it's a tainted place..

who's buying all the drugs? All the drugs cross to US, I guess we have to think who is causing all this troubles

I haven't been in 22 years and at that time, myself riding with 2 friends were pulled over by a policeman who said we ran a red light. 'Follow me to the jail" or give me your money. We had about $120 which we handed over. I live in North San Diego County. My oldest son is 17 1/2 and when i recently asked him what he wanted to do for his 18th birthday he laughed, and said, "I'm going to Mexico".

I knew there had been trouble there, but not to the extent this article showed me. Over my dead body will he cross that border, i don't care who thinks it's silly. It is not worth the risk and he will be reading this article tonight.

Yeah you could say what you want to say about Mexico/TJ...But I just laugh at some of the hypocrisy of the critics. I go across the border daily watching US senior citizens buying their meds for half the price than the USA. I see the underage kids sneaking across the border looking for cheap thrills,booze,drugs,and women. I watch business men,husbands,fathers,and good respected men looking for the ladies of the night. Yes hypocrisy is funny my friends......

Sorry…in two parts:

Part #1

I've got to say that I'm amazed that the SD Reader - which has some really good journalism -- allows not only MikeH to write a biased and, yes, sensationalist article (or should a say a compilation of 20-years of police reports...which, covering 20 years, could make any city look bad), but then allows him to defend his own article on the comment board without identifying himself. Got to admit, seems like a blurring of an ethical line, in my opinion. But, what do I know - I'm not a journalist.

As for claiming you have "sources"...well, your sources aren't always that great, Mr. H. Come on -- using what you even admit is a "Minutemen-friendly watchdog" website to give you insight into what "really" goes on in Tijuana? A real journalist might actually look at truly "verifiable" sources -- not just a statistic found after a Google search from people that aren't necessarily considered quite objective on Mexico... Should I mention using "" as one of your "sources"? Really? A site that is run by a guy up in Vancouver and that stresses "occultism, gnosticism, theosophy, magick, esotericism, the paranormal".... And your source about the four people (yes, one of which was a US citizen, with a criminal record) killed outside of Tijuana, claiming a conspiracy of some sort that the “official record” had changed? Surely it could not have been inaccurate information being updated a few hours after the first press report…and “RightSideNews” is probably a more accurate source than journalists from Frontera and Reuters, right?

It's not about wanting to "ignore" bad news -- it's about how articles can mislead tens of thousands of people by highlighting only part of what is a much more complex situation of a city that is the second-largest after Los Angeles along the entire Pacific Coast of North America (yes, that's a real statistic - you can look). It's not about "ignorance" - it's about "oversimplification" and fictionalizing real events.

Not in your article, but in your comments, belittling readers like Linda22 who brought up violence in “other cities” didn’t seem quite professional (sorry). I'm sure you already know that San Diego's crime and murder rates are below average for big cities in California, so San Diego's not a fair comparison.... But, again, using what I consider "verifiable" statistics (are 2007 statistics from the FBI okay?), one can find that, yes, cities like Oakland CA, Baltimore MD, Rochester NY, Detroit, Flint MI, and even ol' New Orleans have significantly higher murder rates than “dangerous TJ”. In my book, THAT's a real story - not that a city in a "developing country" next to a major drug consuming one is having some problems with drug trafficking battles... Oh, yes, I know: those are only "official" stats, but I guess we also don't count those that "disappear" and never make it to the "official records" in our own statistics, do we?

Part #2

So, forgive me for reading your article like a semi-regurgitated hit piece on Tijuana -- that's what it appears to be. I lived for two years in Tijuana with zero (count them zero) times ever being pulled over or hit up for a bribe. I've been doing business in that city for over 15 years, so I'm not a novice either.

I can't speak for where your experiences were (or why you appear to have decided to make this so personal) but articles like yours hurt thousands of people that try to make a living in a big city that's always going to be our neighbor (yes, believe it or not, a city of 1.6 million actually has quite a few people that aren't involved with criminal activity, and have their dreams and hopes put out of business because of the succession of over-hyped articles like yours). They are families, they are our friends, they are our customers, they are our fire fighters and doctors, our teachers, our neighbors - and many of them are suffering because of a very hard drug trade that hurts our entire region, and a level of poverty that articles like yours only add to.

I'll give you (or the Editor of the San Diego Reader) a challenge: write another front-page article -- this time, with direct access to real sources of information (not hearsay and possibly questionable info). Report about what the thousands of people are doing daily in Tijuana and Baja California to make a change, that risk their own lives (and their families) to fight corrupt forces, that do quite a lot (for a still-developing country) to make Tijuana both a better place for its residents AND visitors from the US, and people that add an important part of what makes the Greater San Diego-Tijuana region great. Write an article that gives a little more insight into a fast-growing and dynamic city in which people live, work, and struggle - not a article that doesn't do justice to the Reader or its readers. That's my challenge to you and the San Diego Reader.

I'll watch for a response

Crossborder Ken,

I would like to read that proposed article you described in your comments. The Reader takes freelance submissions. From your comments, it's clear you know how to write and have the contacts to put your story together.

I don't know how much the Reader pays, but if they publish your article you'll cash a check, just like any other writer who takes the time and effort to submit an acceptable story. If the Reader passes on it, you can submit to a long list of other publications that might be interested.

I look forward to seeing your work soon, and when it's published you will be able to interact with your audience online just as Michael Hemmingson (MikeH) does.

Interacting with informed readers is a healthy development in journalism. I'm glad when writers respond to our comments.

Now get to writing, Ken. I'm waiting.



Another hit piece on Tijuana.

I have lived in Rosarito for almost 20 years and just dont see it. I go out to eat when I want, I surf most everyday, ride my dirt bike all over the place.. My kids are healthy and happy..

Yes there are problems EVERYWHERE. I dont hang out in Compton either...

Lest we forget the doctor driving down the 710 FWY shot to death just for driving down the road. Or the FWY shootings recently in San Diego. This piece is just another example of slanted reporting..

I hope people are smart enough to see it.

Crossborder_Kenn -- You are lucky that you have lived down there for two years and have not yet been pulled over and had to pay. I am sure there are many people in Mexico and Tijuana who have never had that experience; but there are many who have, so perhaps "the wrong place at the wrong time" is the apropos phrase.

Come on people get a hold of yourself this has been going on for year and not only in Mexico or Tijuana but in San Diego and all across the United State just because we are honest people showing you what's going on in life and try to open your eyes to the world our govermment doesn't have to hide the truth from our nation so why should yours do it? so people can think is a better country . Trust me that this corruption also exist from the demand of drugs in the United States, corrupted officials supplying mexico with various fire power i've been a witness, so why don't the journalist write about this? is it because they are scared of there own govermment? what ever it is i know for a fact that this country has most of their population living a fairytale world were issues like this never go on. So many people that are too scared going to Tijuana i've lived there all my life and if you dont hang around with the wrong crowd and mind your own business then things are just fine but if you don't follow the rules you pay with your life end of story.

Tijuana is a city with close to 2 million people, so of course there will be some robberies, murders, kidnappings, etc. I live in San Diego and we have those things as well. That being said, I would not set foot in Tijuana right now. I use to go almost every other week from the time I was 16 until about 26 (three years ago). Why would I go there? Because my friends and I would like the excitement of the fights, the drinking, and partying until the next morning. Tijuana is very very dangerous. We have seen stabbings, shootings, beatings, and this is in what is considered the "high class" clubs and bars. Frankly I know that if I go to the Gaslamp, get drunk, get in a fight, the worse that can happen is maybe an overnight stay in the drunk tank or a black eye. But in Tijuana, the risk of being shot or stabbed or killed is 10 times more likely. Im not a hermit who sits at home and reports on what I've seen on the evening news, I have seen it first hand. Staying away from Tijuana now is not being a coward, it is being smart. If I am going to put my life in that much danger, then I will do it for my country in Iraq or Afghanistan, but not for a $2 Corona beer in Tijuana. Peace.

Who wants to kill a person for a 2 dollar beer corona you have to be kidding me this is the most pathetic comment ive ever heard we are talking about the Tijuana Cartel, the Mafia Drugs, power and the Demand of Drugs in the united states this is why there is so much killing in Tijuana. This issue is between the Drug Cartels trying to take over Territories and have more profits so please people stop victimising yourselfs over this issue, stop watching too much tv and start living.


Linda22 still doesn't see the point of the article. It seems obvious to me. The author is telling the readers that TJ is a very dangerous place. It has gun battles between the drug cartels, and assassinations of police and journalists. Kidnapping for ransom is a routine accurrence. And then there are the daily shakedowns of visitors by a) the police, b) those who claim to be police but are not, or c) ordinary street thugs. (A favorite situation is an American college girl, alone, who is detained until she empties her bank account via ATM, and gives the proceeds to her captors, so that she can leave.) Our local mainstream media do not report on that sort of everyday crime because, after all, it is a foreign country and the crime is petty. "Petty" unless you're the victim, when it becomes downright terrifying.

For as long as there has been a Tijuana, it has been a tourist attraction. Visible poverty, foreignness, and the dark side of the place have always been a sort of perverse attraction. It started with illicit boozing, moved on to illicit gambling and illicit sex-for-hire. Nowadays it is all about underage boozing, pharmaceuticals, and "bargains."

But if you're going to visit there, it needs to be done with eyes wide open. No, it's not a Spanish-speaking amusement park, sort of south-of-the-border Magic Kingdom. People will keep visiting there, but in smaller numbers, until the city is really cleaned up--something that may be long in coming.

Go figure.

I too have been scared off by threats and robbery in Tijuana. A once monthly visitor to the border town, I will not set foot on Mexican soil until I am thoroughly assured it is safe again. The last three times I have visited TJ and the surrounding areas, I have been robbed by Police twice, once in broad daylight, once about 50 feet from the turnstiles coming into Mexico. I ended up paying a total of about 220.00 for slipping off of a curb while walking (to avoid a donkey painted as a zebra) and when a couple of "officers" at the border crossing line, believed I had recently solicited sex and drugs from a prostitute. I was in my car coming from a day trip to Puerto Nuevo, with my wife and two friends, we had not even been in TJ that day.

In the Mexican town of Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) I was drug out of the car and beaten by "policia", peppersprayed, handcuffed and thrown in jail for being in a car that made a u-turn in a parking lot. When a friend of mine asked to pay my bail at the police station, they attempted to negotiate my bail with him for all the money he was carrying(no set price), then told him they would not deal and I'd have to see a judge, threw him in the cell with me, one other American who had also been beaten, and about 30 Mexican men. He was robbed at the business end of a prison shank for about 300.oo dollars, all his money.

I've traveled alot in my life, and Mexico used to be one of my favorite places in the world. Miles of warm water, beautiful beaches, great food, good people(mostly), and fun times. I mean you can surf all day in the sun, eat some of the best homemade food on the planet and relax with a Margarita listening to amazing live mariachi music, all in the same place! Unfortunately, I've seen an escalation in violence against tourists in the last few years, and I hear more and more horror stories coming out of TJ and it's surrounding areas.

It makes me sad to think my days south of the border are over, but who knows what the future holds for Mexico and it's people. My suggestion is to stay away until things maybe get better, but if you cannot, and must go, be careful. Watch yourself, your friends, your money, and your surroundings. Don't keep all your money together, and always carry enough hidden to get home, or pay for a taxi to the border. Don't hassle the locals, the police don't care about your side of the story, and always watch your back.

Today 8-18-08 SD Union Tribune Metro Section...

KFC manager kidnapped, robbed of deposit bag Suspect arrested in death of man attacked in sleep Police set off pipe bomb found outside S.D.Elementry school 16-year-old boy stabbed in attack by three men *Pickup in crash found riddled with bullet holes

Could you imagine what this list would look like if it went back 20 years???

got the date wrong 8-12-08 SDUT Metro

Cepoole offers sage advice when he says, "Don't keep all your money together, and always carry enough hidden to get home, or pay for a taxi to the border." Spread your money out to several pockets -- I usually keep $20-100 hidden in my shoe as emergency for a hotel room, for a taxi back, a soda if the line back in the States is long, and if long, $5-10 for those vans that get you through quicker.

I don't get people like Linda22 and Crossborder Kenn. TJ has serious problems, and they are ready to just blow those problems off because other areas have problems too. That's nonsense.

Crossborder Kenn is even lame enough to shoot the messenger, the writer of the article, rather than concede that there are some pretty horrific things going on in TJ.

The writer has done a good just of documenting the escalating terror using reliable sources. His message is clear--stay out of Mexico if you value your life. A valuable warning for all.

Gosh, I went through all the comments on this piece and didn't see anything from good old fumber until now. His attempt to have the last word(s) are in their usual form. That is, all-lower-case, vaguely punctuated, utterly irrelevant and nonsensical. I suppose the Reader needs his comments to fill things in. It sure would be interesting if he ever said anything with a point.

Thanks, Fumber. Didn't realize it was that simple.

If you've read down this far hopefully I can make it worth your time.

I started dating my wife in 2005 when she was still living in TJ in a neighborhood north of downtown. I crossed the border about twice a week that year. Before then I had visited TJ several times with friends for car stuff, to eat tacos, and of course party on Revolution.
While dating, TJ became a second home city to me. I did all the things a local would do. Go to Playas, Plaza Rio, La Plaza, eating out, etc. Recently, my wife and I went to Cabo San Lucas for our honeymoon, and flew from TJ's airport(go Volaris!). During my time there I've seen the military checkpoints leaving TJ, the cops with slingshots, and have been pulled over twice to solicit bribes(both times I was alone). On a side not always go with them to the station to pay, it's cheaper than a bribe. I guess TJ can be a scary place for the gringo, but for someone who now has family living there, TJ is just a sister city to me.

I agree with the article that too much violence has plagued Tijuana, as it has all of Mexico. But all the charms of Tijuana are still there, and can be enjoyed without looking over your shoulder. If you've had a bad experience, I understand why you don't want to go back. But if you've never been, you have to go at least once to bargain on Revolution(I think they still do that), eat some good tacos(especially fish), drink beer at La Plaza while listening to live Mexican Rock, Walk on the boardwalk at Playas, see a movie while drinking alcohol in reclining leather seats in Cinepolis VIP, or one of the hundreds of other unique activities that make Tijuana so great.

— Michael Hemmingson, My poor mediocre author, did you search well? Or you were just digging the bad part of Tijuana?

Tijuana is a huge city, with beautiful recreation areas and a vastly diverse population. + It is unfair for all of us “the Tijuanenses" to be described as drug dealers, corrupted or prostitutes. You are forgetting about the millions of the habitants who are educated, hard workers and welcome “the Americans”.

There is danger in every single part of this world my dear, unfortunately or fortunately you are living in an extremely patriotic country where not everything can be shown or said. Think about it

PD Welcome to Mexico anytime Laura24

We can't sit here and classify TJ as being Mexico. There is more to Mexico than Tijuana. We have to remember that TJ is a border town, in which criminals from all over South America and Europe pass through in order to get to the States. Every border town is crap and filled with crime. TJ doesn't feel like Mexico to me, because of the influence of others and crime they bring. Those of you who do not want to step foot on Mexican soil until the violence subsides, stay out of TJ because it wont change...go to real Mexican cities and vacation spots, such as Puerto Vallarta (aka friendliest city on earth). I personally have never had a bad experience in TJ, I have found myself in awkward areas behind Revolucion where there are many crackheads and prostitutes...that was scary, but then again you don't see me going to Compton here or Skid Row to hang out. Just know where you are going, and if you want to travel to Mexico for that authentic experience, your best bet is going anywhere BUT Tijuana.

street dogs wander the streets looking for a bone; go to TJ and you become a bone head!!!

Wow. Who supports the negativism--is it the developers, who don't want baby boomers buying in Baja? Is it the hotels and tourist attractions in San Diego, who don't want to lose tourist dollars to Baja? All I know is that I live here, I drive back and forth on my own, as a solo woman, twice a week, and I think my quality of life in Baja is far safer and calmer than it ever was in the U.S. Frankly, I watch the San Diego news every night and thank my lucky starts I don't live up guys with your home invasions live on the edge!

I realize that you are probably just another desperate journalist looking to keep your rare-and-getting-rarer job, but isn't the fundamental tenet of journalism to see stories from both sides? There are, still, a few papers that do that...this, it appears, is not one of them.

I was robbed in Tijuana by the police 3 times and that was the end. Last year was in January on Ave. Revolution at 9 am by Cops who stopped me on the street and then threw me in the paddy wagon for having my diabetes medicine with me which I had it in original bottle and Rx for it. They took all I had and left at the la Linea. It cost me $260.00 That was the end of it, Tijuana is a very deadly place, Do not go there period

Johnny Priest San Diego

Hello everybody,

I want to add to these comments that an article like this would actually encourage me to go to such place rather than deter me. I am a 4th Generation Baja California native, a Californio descendant and a Mexican exPat in San Diego, so my ties to my country and this region in particular are strong. My mother still lives there, and so as my soon to be 91 years old grandfather. I even enrolled in a graduate school in Tijuana. Yet the violence wave going on there concerns me as well, nevertheless nothing will stop me by exercising my freedom, especially lowlife burglars or assassins incapable of sustaining themselves differently. But I might be a different kind of breed as I dared to go to Jerusalem the very same day that Arafat was being buried, I dared to walk the streets of Jakarta at night against everybody’s advice, even the locals. That doesn’t mean that I put myself in danger on purpose, I just try to learn as much as I can from the other culture/location and try to avoid trouble or confrontation while visiting. If you are in a bar in a foreign land it is most likely that you will find more trouble than if you are visiting a foreign college campus (same as at home, right?). Vary rarely I would dare to go to a biker’s bar in the states, similarly I wouldn’t dare to go to a low life strip club in Tijuana or any place in Mexico

There is no real truth in this matter. However I do recommend visiting the city at least one in a decade, or any place in the “third world” as third world “way of life” is the lifestyle of the majority of the citizens of our planet. It enlightens one on the reality of our world, and unfortunately corrupted officials exist in third world countries and even though they are the minority, their actions put a bad name to the whole of the corporation. I have been stopped by Tijuana police officers for the only reason of driving a car with US licenses plates but since I can defend myself with knowledge I haven’t been bothered at all and I wouldn’t under any circumstance give money to them.

To be Continued in separate post due to word count limitations…


One fact is that Tijuana does not have many things that are unique any more. The bullfights are almost gone and publicity in California is poor, The Jai Alai is gone for good, the building is now a concert hall. Good restaurants and beaches are obviously still available, but so are they in California. I hope that the “boycott” at least forces my fellow Baja Californians to be creative. It is my belief that long lines at the border are not the reason why people don’t visit Baja California, but the lack of attractions is the real reason. The longs lines exist because Baja Californians enjoy the attractions from California, i.e. Seaworld, The Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Dysneyland, Legoland, good infrastructure, good prices and overall variety and safety. People who fly into Can Cun do long lines at airports customs’; people who go to Magic Mountain do long lines to board the attractions, so the long lines are not an excuse.

I find the border area fascinating, two very different cultures separated from one line (and one very ugly fence).

I do encourage San Diegans to visit the city of Tijuana, but to inform them selves first. At least once time every decade or half a decade, especially if you can take your teenage kids with you so they can see a different world from, not only a developed country, but from arguably the strongest and more advanced country in the world. It would be far much better if you take your kids with you when they are 16 or 17 than if they go by them selves at 18, 19 or 20 to get drunk.


Sergio Castro

Well put Mr. Castro. Your post was very informative.

I will post a comment just in case people are still reading these comments.

I went to Tijuana by myself on the 4th of July weekend of 2008. I am a naturalized US citizen. I live in Downey, Ca and went to San Diego That weekend. Once in San Diego, I decided to visit Tijuana for the first time.

 Once in Tijuana, I parked my car on a metered spot.   When I was about to put money inside,  a guy walked by and told me, "you don't have to pay today".  I thought that it  was very nice on his part.  Had it been on this side of the border nobody would have cared.   I say that based on my personal experiences here.

Then I went to a park there where I observed some street performers tell jokes. One of them said to the kids watching, "Kids don't do at home what I am about to do here, do it in the streets so you can earn some feria(money)", then every body laughed.

Then I went to the public restroom in the park and to a gas station to fill up the gas tank. No police stopped me.

Ironically, while I was no detained by the Tijuana police, I was detained by the US border patrol for about four hours on my way back. I had my California driver's license with me but the boarder officers wanted proof of citizenship.

crossborder_kenn you need to get informed son, you're misinterpreting statistics even quoting the Fbi who actually have New Orleans, Flint, Baltimore , Detroit and every other US urban area as having FAR LOWER murder rates than TJ. Effectively comparing city centers or tiny suburbs to whole cities is nonsensical.

Thankfully the FBI warn against people like this who manipulate statistics, anyone can play russian dolls with murder rates if one isn't strictly ethical about their use.

Tijuana is a very violent place.

"crossborder_kenn you need to get informed son, you're misinterpreting statistics even quoting the Fbi who actually have New Orleans, Flint, Baltimore , Detroit and every other US urban area as having FAR LOWER murder rates than TJ. Effectively comparing city centers or tiny suburbs to whole cities is nonsensical."

Nope, Carmen, you're comparing apples and oranges. The murder rate here is directly proportional to the drug trade, in terms of the stability of the ruling gangsters that run drugs accross the border. If you want to relate Tijuana's current murder rate to the U.S., then compare it to Chicago when the mob ruled that city during prohibition. Same thing. If you believe statistics from organizations that keep their status according to the level of your fear and others that believe that orinary Tijuanenses are getting their heads chopped off randomly, then you're drinking their Kool-aid.

The murders here are mostly occurring between gansters and cops, or gangsters and gangsters. Tijuana is a very violent place if you're a cop or a gangster. Otherwise, it's as safe, if not safer, than most comparable cities in the U.S., including many parts of San Diego.

I'll venture that the day that the U.S. legalizes drugs is the day that murder rates in Tijuana decline to that equal to if not lower than San Diego's. Twenty billion dollars per year (according to U.S. statistics) would be my wager.

"Tijuana is a very violent place if you're a cop or a gangster. Otherwise, it's as safe, if not safer, than most comparable cities in the U.S., including many parts of San Diego"

Yet amazingly it has a far higher murder rate than all US urban areas.

You're not helping.

Carmen, did you actually read my comment? I've lived here in Tijuana for over seventeen years, raised a family here, and somehow none of us have had our heads chopped off. How did that happen?

Carmen, it is you who are not helping. Get your facts straight.

DRUGS! The U.S. is the consumer. Who, exactly, is helping who?

Refriedgringo, I'm sure the wives and girlfriends whose partners turn up with their heads missing would vouch for your soothing words. Let's not try and bull people about TJ being safer than US cities when you said it wasn't comparable a couple of sentences before.

Likewise, without a supplier there wouldn't be a consumer and the US would be safer as well.

Carmen, put down the Kool-aide and back away from the table. Let's not try and fool people into believing what they see and hear on their network news is the gospel truth. It isn't. In fact, it's a lie if the ratings bring food to the kitchen table. Speaking of which, you need to go back to school and study supply and demand. Demand is not created by supply, it's the other way around. If Mexico had an abundance of duck turds, then my best guess is that there won't necessarily be a spike in demand for them over there. Well, unless you discovered a way to get stoned by smoking them.

Tijuana Innovadora is this week.... A good reason to visit Tijuana. Check the link:

From the terms of the order execution. If you are contemplating at the last moment, that work is urgently needed, usually its cost will be a bit higher.

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